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Luxury Antique Flooring

This world-class hunter and fisherman’s hunting lodge sports a 14′ medallion with fish inlaid with Precision Engineered Antique Heart Pine. Now that’s a pine floor with personality!

Antiue Wood Floor Inlay

Goodwin reclaimed wood is frequently used in award winning floors. This 2008 winner was created by Goodwin’s COO, Andrew St. James and his former partner. Luxury interior design is easy to achieve using the natural luster and elegance of antique wood. Thanks to Goodwin Company

Choosing a Wood Floor Professional – 2

Legacy Select Antique Pine Wooden FloorPart 2 – Hints for finding a finisher for heart pine wooden floors
Many of the suggestions for finding an installer in the first section also apply to looking for a floor finisher for heart pine so you might want to look at Part 1.
A directory of professionally certified finishers such as NWFACP’s list at http://www.nwfacp.org is one place to look for a person or company to sand your wood floor. Websites will often list certifications for the individual or company and classes they have taken. Membership in a wood flooring association can also be a positive sign. A certain minimum amount of work experience is highly desirable, but this is not a guarantee of quality work. Another indication of a commitment to quality work is attending wood floor industry schools. Also the sanding equipment should be professional grade. This does not mean that it has to be new but well maintained high quality equipment is important for a top quality job.
A discussion of the look you want to achieve helps choose between the many types of floor finish available for wood floors. Natural oils, hard wax oils, oil modified polyurethane, water borne acrylic or poly, and Tung oil (fortified or not) are some examples of what is available. Talk to your finisher about the properties of the different products such as –
—overall look,
—ambering,
—gloss levels,
—drying times (walk on floor),
—durability,
—odor,
—time for full cure (replace area rugs),
—VOCs,
—film build,
—maintenance requirements, and
—environmental concerns.
Additional information is available on the internet at http://www.woodfloors.org/WoodFloorFinishes.aspx and other sites. The brand of finish should be designed for use on wood floors for durability and so that film forming products flow to yield a smooth surface. Saving money by using low quality finish can significantly reduce the life of the floor. Professional products cost more but usually only add a small percentage to the overall price. Discuss the finisher’s experience with sanding antique wood floors. River Recovered® heart pine sands slightly differently than most other woods. Some finishes darken antique heart pine floors as they are applied and continue to enhance the natural color change in the wood as it ages. Other products maintain a much lighter shade. Certain species have different reactions with different finishes so it is best to use a combination of flooring and finish products that your floor finisher has experience with.
Dust control and possible paint touch ups on the baseboard are other topics to discuss in advance. The temperature in the room, relative humidity, and direct sun light in the areas where the finish is applied will be of concern to the workers. Commissioning a new flooring project can be stressful, but finding a good team to install and finish your floor makes the process easier and gives better results.

Finding a Wood Floor Professional

River Recovered Antique Pine FlooringPart 1, Choosing an installer for heart pine wood floors.

Historic reclaimed floors represent a substantial investment that will look good for a long time if installed and maintained properly. A good installation is greatly aided by the choice of a good installer. Installers range from those with little concern for quality, to the reliable and experienced, and finally an elite few have a reputation that commands a premium.

Here are a few hints toward finding an installer for your reclaimed wood floor; however, there are no hard and fast rules.
• Talk to people you know who have had good experience with their wood floors.
• Find out if questions asked after the installation received the same attention once the bill had been paid. Was service work done promptly?
• References from repeat customers are especially helpful. Most accomplished craftspeople are proud of their work and feel good about providing references.
• Websites usually show pictures of past work, and general company information.
• Schedule ahead of time. Many of the best firms are booked in advance.

Moisture issues are the cause of the majority of wood flooring complaints. Discuss the steps that will be taken to achieve the proper moisture content in the wood flooring with the installer. Highly resinous antique heart pine wood should be checked with a pin type moisture meter. Experience with local conditions helps determine the proper moisture level. Vapor retarders or barriers are a necessary part of most reclaimed wood flooring installations. Which product or system do they plan to use?

It is best to agree on your expectations of the final product prior to your purchase. This can include reviewing antique lumber grades for pine floors, species characteristics, installation standards (NWFA), and the time required to complete the work. A few detailed topics such as the proper nail schedule and checking the flatness of the sub floor are appropriate for discussion at this time.

Knowledgeable professionals are happy to spend the time to communicate with you in advance to assure your satisfaction. Written agreements can also help avoid misunderstandings. And don’t forget, workers should be insured to protect you from the potential liability of a medical claim.

Most good installers check the room lay out prior to starting the installation and periodically check that the floor is running true during the installation. Wood floor installation is a profession that offers easy entry for new workers in most localities. Experienced workers have had the chance to gain the knowledge needed for a proper installation.

You will not have all of the technical expertise to make the decisions needed for a good installation. Care in choosing the correct installer can help achieve the goal of long-term satisfaction. Contact Goodwin Heart Pine if we can answer questions about antique wood flooring.

Part 2, Wood Floor Finishers will follow

Subfloor Preparation Tips for Proper Wood Floor Installation

Starting with a flat subfloor is essential for a good wood floor installation.  Older homes often have areas where the subfloor is irregular. Refasten any areas of loose subflooring.  It is sometimes advisable to renail the entire subfloor using ring or screw shank nails. Renailing can also be needed in new construction where the subfloor was left exposed to the weather.

A great wood floor installation begins with proper subfloor prep…

Generally the subfloor should be flat to within 1/4″ or less over 10′. Sand any small high spots flat. Small depressions can be filled with layers of thin plywood.  Cut the plywood to progressively smaller pieces (like a contour map) then feather the edges by sanding.  Plaster based floor patch is not recommended for a good wood floor installation.

If the floor joists have sagged in an old house removing the subfloor and sistering new joists to the old ones can be a good solution. Adding stiffness to the framing is better than reducing stiffness.

If you are not doing a large area and the plywood is sound you can use 2x4s turned on edge. Cut them to follow the floor contours and create a flat top.  We have used a metal rail system and a router to trim the tops of the 2x4s to a flat plane.  Install the floor as you would over a sleeper system.  This is still a lot of work but worth the effort for a successful floor for the longterm.

Plywood vs. OSB

Antique heart pine

Antique Heart Pine Wood Floor in Herringbone Pattern

The relative merits of using OSB or plywood for the subfloor under a wood floor has been a hot topic.  The issue is the nail holding ability of the OSB especially if the moisture content of the subfloor has been high.  Many experienced professionals prefer plywood subfloors.  The consensus is that staples hold better than cleats if you are faced with a nail down installation over OSB.  Here are two links where subfloor materials are discussed.

http://hardwoodfloorsmag.com/forum/topic9-loose-squeeky-crackling-popping-floors.aspx

http://hardwoodfloorsmag.com/forum/topic167-understanding-osb.aspx

Restoring Antique Wood Floors

Cushion edge end grain

Reclaimed Heart Pine

We recently had an inquiry asking if more finish can be added to an old site finished floor to improve its appearance. This is what we used to call a buff and coat.  Recoating will not remove deep scratches or discoloration in the antique wood, but is a good choice in many cases where the finish is sound and not overly worn. The surface of the existing finish is abraded lightly to get it ready for additional finish.  If there are contaminates on the wood floor such as wax, dusting products, polish, etc. the new coat may not adhere in some spots and total resanding may be a better choice. The major water based finish manufacturers make pretreatment products which aid adhesion. The water based finishes are easy to use if you know what you are doing and are used by many professionals.  If you are doing the work yourself many first time attempts do not come out as well with these products. You might consider using a more traditional urethane floor finish with a slower drying time. Once you get everything cleaned up and ready two coats often looks better than one on an old floor. A finish with a low gloss level tends to help surface imperfections blend in. If you are not going to use water borne finish the old way to abrade it was to rub the surface with fine steel wool.  Go with the grain of the wood floor. It is a good idea to test the compatibility of the finish you are using with the existing finish in a small out of the way area before doing the whole floor.  Also the National Wood Flooring Association http://www.woodfloors.org/ has information on finishes and maintenance. Especially with antique wood, you can find small ways to improve any damage or discoloration that has happened over time, because much antique wood already carries natural imperfections!

Antique Wood Floors Over Radiant Heat

Antique wood floor

Decorative feature in antique wood floor

We are occasionally asked if antique pine flooring is a good choice over radiant heat.  Over the years our customers have had many successful installations over this heating system.  There are general guidelines such as turning on the heating system in advance for several days to make sure that there is no excess moisture in the subfloor.  Also the temperature of the subfloor should not go above 85 degrees F. Wider boards are prone to show larger gaps in the heating season.  Vertical grain flooring moves less than select grain flooring.  As with any installation starting with properly milled flooring and exercising care to get the moisture content of the flooring (and the job site) correct go a long way towards getting an antique heart pine floor which looks good for years and years.  The NWFA has also developed guidelines for installing wood floors over radiant heat see Installation Guidelines, Appendix H.

Antique Heart Pine flooring from Reclaimed boards

Inlay of log end

Occasionally we get calls from people who have some salvaged lumber and they want make their own flooring.  Here are a few details to consider.

The fit of the tong and groove is critical if the wood floor is going to perform well.  A loose fit can lead to squeaks while a fit that is too tight will make the floor hard to install.  If you put two short straight boards together and then hold them in the air by one of them the other should not fall off.  A quick shake should cause the boards to disengage.  A difference of a few thousandths of an inch can make a significant difference.

Almost all wood flooring is made with the top face slightly wider than the bottom. As the floor is installed the top touches first leaving a slight gap between the boards on the bottom. The difference in width between the top and bottom avoids cracks showing between the boards in areas of slight sub floor irregularity.

A groove on the top inside corner of the tong allows a space for the nail heads as an addition aid to a tight fitting floor.

Some individuals with good skill levels have been able to produce serviceable flooring from antique wood, but most high quality reclaimed flooring is made by experienced craftspeople.

Antique Wood Floor, Concrete, and Water

In the antique wood floor industry…

We often hear the comment that reclaimed wood flooring never needs acclimation. Unfortunately this is not the case. The high resin content of antique Longleaf pine diminishes the width changes driven by moisture fluctuations but does not eliminate them. Moisture concerns need to be addressed when using antique heart pine flooring just as with other wooden floors especially if the subfloor is concrete.Antique Wood Floor

Let’s start by listing a few observations
-Antique Wood floors, or any wood floors, are often installed over concrete subfloors.
-The majority of wood floor complaints are moisture related.
-Untreated concrete readily absorbs, conducts, and emits water.
The combination of concrete and wood flooring calls for planning before the installation begins to avoid problems during the lifetime of the floor.

One of the first questions might be ’is the concrete dry enough now?’ Moisture meters or testing water vapor emission from the surface of the concrete can indicate if the concrete is wet. In some cases these tests are not reliable indicators of conditions that will lead to a successful antique wood floor installation. Devices that measure the interior relative humidity within the concrete have been used in Europe for some time and are now often used here. If the moisture level is too high consider installing a vapor barrier or a penetrating sealer designed for use under antique wood flooring.

Concrete that is dry now may be exposed to water later. On-grade concrete can absorb water if exterior surface water accumulates or if the soil moisture levels increase. Once the water is introduced into concrete it travels to affect adjacent areas. If a vapor barrier was not installed the moisture can cause problems with an existing antique wood floor installation.

Non absorbing cushion such as closed cell foam is usually used under floating floors. Using porous padding material under floating floors introduces the possibility of retaining moisture if excess water is temporarily present.

Leaks from plumbing, appliances, roofs, or other building sources can result in wet wood floors. The National Wood Flooring Association suggests removing the water and drying a flooded floor promptly. For more details refer to the NWFA publication C200, ‘Problems Causes and Cures’. Some floors cannot be saved. If the concrete under the antique wood floor has been wet it is important to verify that it has dried out before replacing a floor.  Best wishes for a great longterm antique wood floor. Call if we can help with further questions.

Choosing a wood floor professional -2

Part 2 – Hints for finding a finisher for heart pine wooden floors

Many of the suggestions for finding an installer in the first section also apply to looking for a floor finisher for heart pine so you might want to look at Part 1.
A directory of professionally certified finishers such as NWFACP’s list at http://www.nwfacp.org is one place to look for a person or company to sand your wood floor. Websites will often list certifications for the individual or company and classes they have taken. Membership in a wood flooring association can also be a positive sign. A certain minimum amount of work experience is highly desirable, but this is not a guarantee of quality work. Another indication of a commitment to quality work is attending wood floor industry schools. Also the sanding equipment should be professional grade. This does not mean that it has to be new but well maintained high quality equipment is important for a top quality job.
A discussion of the look you want to achieve helps choose between the many types of floor finish available for wood floors. Natural oils, hard wax oils, oil modified polyurethane, water borne acrylic or poly, and Tung oil (fortified or not) are some examples of what is available. Talk to your finisher about the properties of the different products such as –
—overall look,
—ambering,
—gloss levels,
—drying times (walk on floor),
—durability,
—odor,
—time for full cure (replace area rugs),
—VOCs,
—film build,
—maintenance requirements, and
—environmental concerns.
Additional information is available on the internet at http://www.woodfloors.org/WoodFloorFinishes.aspx and other sites. The brand of finish should be designed for use on wood floors for durability and so that film forming products flow to yield a smooth surface. Saving money by using low quality finish can significantly reduce the life of the floor. Professional products cost more but usually only add a small percentage to the overall price. Discuss the finisher’s experience with sanding antique wood floors. River Recovered® heart pine sands slightly differently than most other woods. Some finishes darken antique heart pine floors as they are applied and continue to enhance the natural color change in the wood as it ages. Other products maintain a much lighter shade. Certain species have different reactions with different finishes so it is best to use a combination of flooring and finish products that your floor finisher has experience with.
Dust control and possible paint touch ups on the baseboard are other topics to discuss in advance. The temperature in the room, relative humidity, and direct sun light in the areas where the finish is applied will be of concern to the workers. Commissioning a new flooring project can be stressful, but finding a good team to install and finish your floor makes the process easier and gives better results.

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5 Things to Learn About Antique Wood Floors in 5 Minutes

1. Help in choosing a reclaimed wood floor…River Recovered Antique Heart Pine Vertical Grain

To help you think about what you want here are a few choices:
· Do you want a unique wood floor with a story?
· A beautiful, historic and durable floor.
· Light, medium or dark tones?
· Consistent color or color variation?
· Grain with pin stripes, bold arches or subtle graining?
· A single width versus a random width pattern gives a different look?
· Do you like ‘character’ or prefer pristine?
· How about knots or do you want a ‘clear’ grade?
Maybe you just want to see a few of these characteristics in River Recovered Heart PineLegacy Heart PineRiver Recovered Heart Cypress… or Sustainably Harvested Woods.

Antique Heart Pine is the most frequently specified reclaimed wood.’Virgin growth’ heart pine is known as the ‘wood that built America’. It is mostly or all heartwood, is very hard and comes in many grades.

Some of the more commonly available reclaimed woods include: American Chestnut, Heart Cypress, Douglas Fir, Eastern White Pine and Oak.

2. Which finish should you use on reclaimed wood?

The finish you choose can dramatically change the look of your floor. While most reclaimed wood is sanded and finished smooth to the touch, you can also have a distressed floor. Distressing simulates old, old floors or barn siding and is usually done on milling machines, though it can also be done onsite by craftsmen.

How you want to maintain your wood floor determines if you want polyurethane that requires a professional to repair or if you want an oil finish that you can refresh when scratches occur. Polyurethane is a plastic coating that adds shine to the floor. The oil finishes are very natural and are low sheen; however, they can be made to have degrees of shine. They are especially appropriate for heavy traffic and come with easy maintenance products.

3. Would solid or engineered reclaimed wood work best for you?

Engineered wood flooring is a growing market. Goodwin began engineered flooring to help conserve the rare River Recovered® wood. While solid wood floor may remain the ‘gold standard’ for those who can accommodate its greater demands, now you can have ‘USA made’ engineered flooring that looks and lasts like solid and is easier to fit into the construction cycle.

4. Not all reclaimed wood is equal…

To consistently manufacture a well made reclaimed wood floor that is properly kiln-dried, precisely milled, graded to established standards and backed by in-house technical expertise requires a considerable investment. Reclaimed wood can be a confusing niche industry. You may want to know some terminology when specifying antique heart pine. Building design professionals can call for our free continuing education course on Architectural and Design Uses of Reclaimed Wood.

5. Installation tips to help your reclaimed wood perform well for a lifetime and beyond.

Once you have chosen your floor, learn what to ask; about installation, selecting an installer, even tips on existing subfloors on our blogs. Should you need stair parts or millwork it is possible to get any flooring complement in the same grade as your floor.

Engineered floor installation, when glued to concrete, needs to have an elastomeric type adhesive made for engineered wood. We generally suggest a vapor retarder over the slab. Even if the slab is dry now it ensures against leaks or storms.

Just a few of the important tips to help ensure your solid wood floor installation:
1. The sub floor needs to be flat and level to within 3/16” over 10 feet for nail down or flat within 1/8” over 6 feet for glue down installation.
2. The moisture content of the wood floor and the sub-floor need to match the expected indoor temperature and relative humidity once the building has been occupied. Be sure to use a pin type moisture meter on dense reclaimed wood.
3. Enough ‘cleats’ for nail down jobs will help prevent the floor from moving too much. You should nail a 6” inch wide floor every 4”, an 8” inch wide floor every 3”, etc.

Why Antique Wood?

Benefits

Environmental benefits:

  • Enhance and protect ecosystems and biodiversity
  • Improve air and water quality
  • Reduce solid waste
  • Conserve natural resources

Economic benefits:

  • Reduce operating costs
  • Enhance asset value and profits
  • Improve employee productivity and satisfaction
  • Optimize life-cycle economic performance

Health and community benefits:

  • Improve air, thermal and acoustic environments
  • Enhance occupant comfort and health
  • Minimize strain on local infrastructure
  • Contribute to overall quality of life

10 reasons to choose wood floors

  1. Wood is a natural product in a diverse selection of colors and grain patterns.Who hasn’t marveled at the beauty of a home with a fine wood floor? It’s in our nature to love trees, to harvest them and to replant them. Wood is a part of our lives and our homes. There are more choices now than ever before… a wood floor for every taste.
  2. Wood is the easiest floor to clean, requiring far less chemicals.Whenever someone says, “I think tile or carpet might be easier to clean,” I point to my wood floor cleaning tools. With only a swivel mop and sometimes a non-aerosol spray, I can clean my wood floor in less than half the time it takes to vacuum, scrub or shampoo other floor coverings. Wood doesn’t trap dust and fumes like carpet and doesn’t grow mold in the grout like tile. Best yet, fewer chemicals are needed.
  3. It’s the best choice for the environment. Production is cleaner than alternatives.Wood production is much cleaner than other building materials. Steel manufacturing results in 40 times more pollutants than manufacturing wood. Concrete requires 6 times more and brick four times. Steel releases 3 times more carbon dioxide into the enviroment and concrete even more. Wood sends less solid waste to the landfill than manufacturing steel or concrete. Finally, wood is more energy efficient. The cellular structure of wood traps air, giving it superior insulating properties. It takes 15 inches of concrete to equal the insulation qualities of just one inch of wood.
  4. You can redecorate by changing your wood floor with stains, faux finishes and inlays.You can easily and cost-efficiently change the entire look of a wood floor from time to time with stains, paints and inlays.
  5. Wood is a smart investment.There is no depreciation on a wood floor. In fact, it usually increases the resale value of a home. Real wood floors offer beauty for a lifetime — or longer! Every day people continue to walk on wood floors that are as old as our nation. For example, the floors in the White House, Washington’s Mount Vernon and Jefferson’s Monticello are still beautiful and practical today. Carpet is replaced 3 to 6 times before most solid wood floors ever need repair. Thus, wood floors cost less long term and add value to your home.
  6. Finishes can be easily repaired or reapplied.As long as maintenance procedures have been followed, wood floors can be refinished instead of adding to the landfill (as happens with some other floor coverings). Our industry helps to preserve what is already there… the finest form of recycling.
  7. Wood floors give a little on your spine and legs and are better for your joints.Don’t be surprised if your doctor recommends a wood floor for your spine and joints. Wood gives a little and is easier on your legs and feet. Have you ever noticed that your feet get tired faster if you are standing on stone or tile than if you are standing on wood?
  8. Wood is an ideal choice for people with allergies.We spend 90 percent of our time indoors so your choice of flooring can be important. Wood is the floor of choice for anyone with allergies. It will not harbor dust mites or mold and does not trap dust or fumes. Some researchers believe the dust mite could be responsible for increasing asthma occurrence. According to the American Lung Association, wood floors in the bedroom and other main living areas can improve air quality.
  9. Wood floor sales return more money back to the wood industry to support good forest management.Wood floors are a high-end use of forest products and can provide more profit, thereby ensuring the perpetuation of the forest. Many developing countries today rely on timber for export earnings, yet the greatest threat to primary forests in these countries is conversion to other forms of land use. Using exotic species for wood floors is a good way to value the wood highly and encourage reforestation for continued income production.
  10. Wood is our greatest renewable resource.North America has more than 70 percent of the forest cover that was here in the 1600’s. Plus many exotic woods come from certified sustainable forests.In North America we produce more wood than any other place on the planet! According to the World Resources Institute report, our continent was unusual in that it increased tree cover in the 1990s. In other words, we grow more than we cut. North America is also becoming known as a ‘carbon sink’. Scientists have shown that young trees use more carbon dioxide than older trees , much like younger animals need more food.

 

Maintaining Your Antique Wood Floor

A wood floor is one of the best investments you have ever made. With proper care, it will stay beautiful and last a lifetime. How do you keep your floors as beautiful as the day they were installed or refinished? Follow these easy steps and you will have beautiful floors that always look their best. Here are some basic rules that apply to all types of finishes. With these simple steps your heart pine floor will give you lasting beauty and enjoyment.

Keep out the dirt

Dirt and grit are any floor’s enemy, whether carpet, tile, or hardwoods.

  • Use dirt-trapping mats outside all exterior doors.
  • Throw rugs or small carpets just inside entrances are also helpful.
  • Sweep, vacuum with a brush attachment, or mop regularly as needed.
  • Do not use a household dust treatment. Your floor may become slick or it may dull the finish.

Prevent damage

Avoid scratches or dents in the floor.

  • Use felt or fabric-faced glides on the legs of your furniture.
  • If you need casters, non-marking rubber is the best type.
  • Keep high heels in good repair and replace protective shoe heel caps, exposed steel support rods in high heels will dent even concrete.
  • Move area rugs occasionally and shade large west-facing windows.

When you clean

  • Cleaning is different depending on the finish you choose.
  • Do not use wax over a surface finish (water-borne or moisture-cure).
  • You can damp mop a surface finished floor with a minimum of water or cleaner.
  • Finish manufacturers often have a cleaner that is made for their finish.
  • Wipe up spills quickly. Standing liquid can harm the wood and finish.
  • Don’t wax too much. It can decrease luster. Buff your floor before you rewax and see if that returns the luster.

Reclaimed Flooring Finishes

Finishing normally begins about 7 to 14 days after installation. This gives enough time for the installed floor to react to the environment. Slight cracks and any raised edges that are going to develop will have done so by then, and you can fill and sand them for the best possible appearance. Longer periods of exposure may subject the bare wood to job-site abuse and moisture.

For starters, heart pine is naturally hard and dense, and the new polyurethane finishes offers increased protection wherever you install your wood floor. But there is a lot of technical know-how needed for polyurethane or any other hardwood floor finish. The finish industry is evolving rapidly to meet strict new regulations and the increase in demand for wood floors. If you have further questions, telephone numbers, books, and articles are listed in the back of this guide, all of which provide more detailed information.

Sanding

Just like site conditions are to installation, good sanding techniques are critical in finishing. If the sander leaves swirls or grooves these will become more noticeable once the finish is applied. Sanding creates a lot of dust. Wear a respirator, ear plugs, and shoes that do not hold dust in the soles or leave scuff marks.

The job takes at least a couple of different machines. A drum sander is used to level the floor, and a disc sander to “screen” (or lightly sand) between each coat. You might want an edger, a small floor sander that lets you get close to walls, or you can sand these hard to reach areas by hand. A professional floor finisher will have all of these machines, or you may be able to rent them from your local hardware store.

Seal off doorways, vents, and built-ins by taping plastic over them. Just before sanding remember to check for loose boards or squeaks and repair them with screws from underneath the subfloor or nail through the floor into the joists. Set any nails at least 1/16″ deep and fill the holes with wood putty.

Operating a drum sander takes some practice. The machine is heavy but has to be moved along with a relatively “light” touch. If held in place for even a few seconds it will leave a dent in the floor. Sand in rows in the direction that the floor runs from left to right across the room. The drum sander takes a slightly deeper cut on the left side to allow you to feather the edge on the right side as you move over to the next row.

Turn on the machine and move forward as you lower the drum to the floor so it does not dent the starting spot. You do not have to bear down at all. About one foot away from the wall, lift up. Put the machine down again as you begin to move it backward over the same row. When you reach the spot where you started, lift up and move over 2–4″ for each succeeding row.

The first “cut” (sanding) is to level the floor. Use a drum sander with coarse-grit (20-36) paper. Fill any nail or peg holes and sand again using medium-grit (50 to 80). Check for any more blemishes and fill them before the final sanding with fine-grit (100-120) paper. Scrap the corners and hard to reach places, then hand sand them to blend with the rest of the floor.

You will not be able to get close to the wall behind you, so plan to start a few feet away from the back wall and sand to within a foot or so of the wall in front of you. Then turn around and sand the few feet remaining to the other wall, again starting from right to left. Take care to feather over the line where you reversed directions. Use an edger to get the area that the drum sander could not reach at walls and under counters. You may need to use a hand scraper and hand-sanding block for some areas.

After the first sanding, sweep well and change to medium grit (60-80) paper and sand again. You may choose to use a filler between sandings, usually used when refinishing old floors. If you defects that you want to cover there are some good latex fillers available. Use fine grit (100-120) sand paper for the final sanding.

As soon as you have completely sanded the floor to a level surface, vacuum thoroughly and then wipe it with tack rags. Be sure to get all the dust from not only the floor and out of the corners, but also off windowsills and mouldings. Remember to clean out any vents as well. This will prevent sawdust from falling into the finish and becoming a permanent part of your floor.

“Wash” the floor with a rag or mop that has been dampened with mineral spirits. This is an important step for heart pine. It removes any oils or resins from the surface of the wood that might prevent the finish from adhering properly. The mineral spirits will dry within a few hours, unless applied too generously.

Supplies to Have On Hand for Finishing

Penetrating oil-based sealers can be applied by hand with a rag, a brush, or a lamb’s wool applicator. Surface finishes are usually applied by applicator, or by brush in small areas.

Between coats of surface finishes you will need an abrasive nylon screen, fiber buffing pad, or steel wool to lightly sand the previous coat and help the next one adhere. Do not use steel wool if you are using a water-based finish. The steel fibers will rust and discolor the finish. If you use brushes, clean them only with water or mineral spirits. The distillates in some brush cleaners can slow the drying process.

Use a vacuum cleaner after each sanding or screening. For large areas, clean vacuum bags frequently to avoid returning any dust to the floor. You might even try wearing paper surgical booties over your shoes to avoid tracking dust. Rags with mineral spirits or water are also useful to clean up sweat, dust, dirt, or oil if any drips on the floor while you are applying the finish.

When do I Apply the Finish?

People generally prefer the natural look of finishes applied in the home over a factory baked-on finish, and most fine wood floors are sanded and finished on-site. For best results, finish the floor after the wall coverings are in place and painting is complete, except for a final touch-up coat of paint on your base moulding.

Which Finish do I Use?

  • Water-based (or water-borne) urethane is a good choice for the environmentalist and is the easiest to apply. Water-based is only slightly less hard than moisture-cure, and is less likely to leave drying lines during application.
  • Moisture-cure urethane is the hardest and most protective finish, but it requires the most skill to apply. Generally, it is not suggested for use by the non-professional.
  • Traditional oil-modified polyurethane finishes are used today, though they will be regulated out of use in the future. Wax is generally applied on top of this finish.
  • Use a penetrating oil sealer for a natural but soft finish. Buff the floor with steel wool between each coat, and then wax over the sealer. This finish may be the correct choice for some projects, but it requires extra maintenance and offers less protection.
  • There are completely natural finish products available for people with chemical sensitivities or for those who want to use totally non-toxic products. Organizations specializing in the most healthful and ecological building materials are noted at the back of this booklet.

The First Coat

We recommend that the first coat be an oil-based sealer to help bring out the red tones for which heart pine is so famous.

The oil-based sealer is a penetrating finish and soaks into the wood, unlike surface finishes such as water-based or moisture-cured polyurethane. The real beauty of the wood can be brought out right away by one coat of the sealer.

Heart pine is renowned for its unique color and beauty. Many heart pine lovers model the late Frank Lloyd Wright who said, “I like wood left alone, for the sake of wood.” Stains may actually muddle the wood’s strong grain patterns. However, if your project has special needs you can get the sealers in wood stain colors.

The finish is applied in parallel strips across the room with the direction of the flooring. Always maintain a wet edge and use a single gliding stoke along the length of your strip, “feathering” into the previous wet area. Work toward the light so that you can see your work, but do not worry about retouching missed areas if the finish has already begun to skim over. The next coat will fill in these areas.

Make sure your floor is completely dry before you apply the second coat since the sealer soaks into the heart pine. We suggest thinning it with 1/4 to 1/3 Mineral Spirits to give it maximum penetration. It has been our experience that this coat may take longer to dry than the finish manufacturer’s directions. We often find that it takes at least 24 hours for this sealer coat to dry. One customer says, “We think the labels should read, ‘dries in four hours unless you live in Florida where it takes two days.'”

If you are in a hurry use a moisture meter to see if the floor has returned to its pre-finish moisture content. Or, check for a thumbprint by pressing your thumb firmly against the floor (see Don Bolinger’s book, Hardwood Floors, available through Fine Homebuilding magazine).

After the First Coat

You have lots of choices for the second coat of finish. Water-based is increasingly popular. It offers quick-drying time, takes little maintenance, and is simple to recoat when wear eventually begins to show. Moisture-cured and oil-modified finishes are still used a lot today, even in this low VOC (volatile organic compound) age. For a simple but soft finish, wax on top of the sealer.

We generally recommend water-based urethanes because they are safe, durable, fast drying, and offer good protection for your floor. Water-based products are being continually improved to decrease their VOC contents and increase their durability. A water-based urethane used on heart pine over an oil-based sealer applied in thin coats is a very pretty finish. It looks similar to an “oiled” or hand-rubbed finish. Some woodworkers may hate to admit this, but many know it is -true and use this to their advantage. After the first and between each succeeding coat of finish, use a floor buffer fitted with a used 100-120 grit “screen” (rub two together if you do not have a used one) or hand sand small areas. You will have to hand sand corners and edges. Lightly sand the “top” off the finish.

You do not want to sand into the finish, and one or two passes over the floor is usually enough. All that is necessary is to take the shine off the finish to help the next coat adhere to the one before it. If the finish does not “powder” while you are sanding, it is probably not dry. Vacuum the floor and any sills and baseboards. Tack the floor again, then let it dry completely, and start your next coat.

Additional tips for finishing your hardwood floors

  • For the best possible adherence from coat to coat, use high-gloss for all coats except the last one. Many types of polyurethane are so hard that they do not adhere well to themselves. The high-gloss adheres best, so even if you want a satin finish use high-gloss. Use satin as your final coat and you will get the low-gloss (or semi-gloss) finish that you want with maximum adherence.
  • You can apply as many coats of polyurethane as you want. Usually two or three coats is enough, but we have had people ask if they can use several coats. Just remember to let each new coat dry a little longer than the previous one.
  • It is important not to wax a wood floor that has a surface finish (water-based or moisture-cured). If wax is used on these finishes, it prevents the ability to simply retouch the floor (screen or lightly sand to remove the shine and recoat it). If you wax on top of a surface finish you must sand the floor completely back to bare wood before recoating.

Special Floor Finishing Needs

If you are restoring a historic building, you may choose varnish to match an old finish. We discuss varnishes in the section on “Refinish.” We can also provide you with reprints of Old House Journal articles about historic finishes.

You might want to know about finishes for porch or outdoor floors… or how to sand a parquet floor… or even how to “pickle” your floor. There are many topics, and we can only mention the basics in this short booklet. Do not hesitate to call with questions. We will try to provide other references.

There are many companies that make excellent finish products, a few are listed in the back of this guide. No matter which finish manufacturer you choose, follow their directions carefully. These products are improving rapidly as are the ecological standards they are required to meet.

Let us know if we can provide reprints of flooring manufacturer’s association guides on finishing to further assist you.

Other Finishes

We do not mention white floors nor do we discuss finishes that contain formaldehyde in this guide. These finishes are frequently used and many professionals have a great deal of experience with them. If you need to know about them, we can recommend sources.

Reclaimed Flooring Installation

ow that you have made the decision to install heart pine, you are ready to go. Some suggestions we feel might come in handy throughout the process are included in this section. Please click on any of the headings for useful information on everything from site preparation to sanding and finishing your new hardwood floor.

The subfloor: Your wood floor’s foundation

Nearly all squeaks and cracks can be directly traced to an inadequate subfloor. A sound subfloor is the crux of a sturdy floor. A plank subfloor should be at least 6″ wide boards installed diagonally to the joists. When installing a plywood subfloor, 3/4″ exterior grade is recommended if your finished flooring is 3/4″ thick. If wood flooring is installed over concrete, check for wetness by taping down a square yard of plastic for 72 hours to see if condensation forms. Once dry, you can install a joist system or just a grid of pressure-treated lumber (screed system) over the concrete. Align the edges with the joists for strength and stagger adjacent rows four feet. You can even cut the plywood into 4′ squares to create a smaller area over which each panel can move. Nail every six inches along each joist with 8D or larger nails. You can use adhesive before nailing to further reduce movement and possible squeaks.

If you choose to put in a sleeper (or screed) system over a concrete slab, dry pressure treated 2x4s are preferred. These should be 18″ to 4′ in length and staggered on centers with an air gap on all overlap joints. Lay them perpendicular to the direction of the finished flooring and secure them with T-nails staggered side-to-side 4” to 6” apart.

Leave expansion joints of at least 1/8 inch between each panel, section, or board of the subfloor. Research has shown that two or three years after the floor is installed the subfloor will measure 2-3% higher moisture content than the floor. The subfloor has less access to heating and air conditioning than the floor, and will expand slightly from the additional moisture.

Use a 6′ to 10′ straightedge to check the subfloor for high areas, and sand any high spot so the subfloor is as flat as possible. Next put down 30 pound felt paper carefully butt-edged, not overlapped. The felt reduces the chance of squeaks and helps circulation around the floorboards.

Humidity

First of all, heart pine, like any wood, is a natural product. It is made up of tiny cells, which take on or give off water with moisture in the air, and will therefore shrink or expand somewhat with changes in relative humidity. The humidity levels inside a building will vary with heating or air conditioning seasons. As the humidity varies the dimensions of floorboards and any wood products will also change slightly.

Relative humidity in the dwelling should be stabilized at 40-60 percent. Be sure the drywall and sub-floor of the house are dry prior to installation. If the newly installed floor absorbs moisture from its surroundings it will expand and compress, but it will not decompress to the full dimension once the site dries.

Here’s how to best preserve your wood floor and all fine wood:

  • Turn the thermostat to your typical setting about three weeks before the flooring is due to arrive with all outside doors and windows in place. This will help to stabilize humidity levels between 40% and 60%, and establish an ambient temperature of between 50 degrees and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s ideal to maintain these humidity and temperature conditions as much of the time as possible throughout the life of the building.
  • Some buildings may need a humidifier to maintain a healthy humidity level and prevent excess shrinking of the building materials.
  • Beware of leaving a house closed up with the air conditioning off during summer months when excess humidity may get trapped inside the house.
  • Season all concrete, mortar, and plaster areas a minimum of 60 days. You can check if concrete is dry by using a few drops of phenylthalene (available at most drugstores). Or you can use a vapor barrier test. Tape a 3’ x 3’ piece of 6 millimeter poly-film securely to the slab. Allow this barrier to remain secured for 72 hours, then remove and check for moisture under the film.
  • Check that crawl spaces are dry and well cross-ventilated. Even an old house can have moisture in the slab or water under the house. All that is required for these conditions to occur is for dirt to be piled up around the slab for landscaping or for the ground under the house to be lower than the ground around the house.
  • Direct rainfall or excessive moisture away from the structure with surface drainage. Good drainage is a 3″ or greater slope per every 10 feet. Build up the ground level under the house so that it is higher than ground level around the outside of the foundation of the foundation.
  • If you do have the potential for moisture intrusion from underneath the flooring, the treatment may be as simple as a layer of plastic taped under the building or between the slab and subfloor. Tape the plastic anywhere there are seams. Be sure not to pierce this vapor barrier with nails or staples when installing the floor.

There are many, many solutions to moisture intrusion depending on the type of construction and area of the country. For example, some of the oldest houses in southern Florida were built without any subfloor to provide maximum circulation for the floor. This is an extreme example and requires the best drainage and planning. We do not recommend it, but it serves to demonstrate the diversity of options that are available if you investigate the natural construction techniques for your location.

Acclimation

Ideal acclimation time is two to four weeks, with a seven to ten day minimum. Air temperature and humidity conditions that will exist throughout the life of the structure should be established well before the flooring arrives and left on during the entire acclimation time.

When delivering wood flooring to the site, do not unload in the rain, drizzle, snow, or extremely moist weather. While the wood is acclimating, it should be stacked so that air can circulate around each board. Use a good quality moisture meter to check your floor. Be sure the floor and subfloor are within 2% of each other’s moisture content at installation. The moisture content should be consistent board to board and section to section within 1-2%. If there is a variation of more than 2% in the moisture content of the more dense boards from the lighter boards, this is one sign that the floor may not be fully acclimated.

Moisture

Check moisture content with a high quality, accurate moisture meter. The floor should measure 8 to 14 percent in most conditions and the floor and subfloor should be no more than 2 percent difference at installation. However, the moisture content of the floor should match the relative humidity of the environment in which it will be installed. If your indoor living areas are outside the range of 8 to 14 percent, you may want to consider special measures: additional acclimation time, a vapor barrier, or perhaps a humidifier or dehumidifier.

Site Preparation

All concrete, plaster and mortar projects should be seasoned at least 60 days before delivery of flooring materials. Always test concrete for moisture regardless of how long it has been poured. Check basements and crawl spaces to be sure they have good cross-ventilation. Wood floors require 1 1/2 square feet of ventilation per 100 square feet of floor. Surface drainage should direct rainfall or excessive moisture away from the structure. Keep sprinklers from spraying on the house around wood floors.

Plan the Layout

Take time to plan the layout of your wood floor so that the last few boards don’t have to accommodate all of the difference for an out-of-square room. Maintain a 3/4″ gap around the edge of the room. Never “zero-fit” the floorboards to the room. The floor must be able to expand in all directions without any pressure.

You can often hide any differences in dimensions around the room gaps around the edges of the room. Or you may be able to hide a tapered floorboard under a counter or along a wall that is not immediately noticeable when you first walk into the room.

Consider any special treatments such as “framing” doorways, fireplaces, masonry, or other protrusions into the room with wider boards and decorative effects. You can turn decorative boards perpendicular to the floor, screw and peg them, and join them at the corners with a 45-degree angle instead of a butt joint.

Board Selection

Select several straight boards for the first and last few rows. Some boards are naturally more crooked than others, and you can pull them into place easily when working in the middle of the room. The simplest way to get a crooked board into place before nailing is to drive a screwdriver into the subfloor for leverage. However, it’s easier to work with a straight board while you’re pulling up near the wall.

Laying the Floor

Lay the floor perpendicular to the joists if possible. If you decide to lay it parallel to the joists you’ll need an especially strong subfloor. Small marks at the base of the wall help locate the joists during installation. Stagger flooring during installation so that the end joints are at least 4″ to 6″, or farther, apart in any direction.

It is not necessary to end-match heart pine. Oak is often end-matched because the average board is only 2-4′ long. A heart pine floor usually averages 6-10′ boards. There will be some shorter pieces, but these can be mixed in or used at the walls.

Many professionals suggest that installation begin in the middle of the room. Flooring expands in the direction of the tongue, so any movement as humidity levels change will be from the center out instead of across the entire width of the floor. Use a center spline between the two facing grooves of the center boards. Others suggest that you install from one wall to the other, left to right if you are right handed. All agree that power nailers are faster and diminish the chance of hammer marks on the floor.

Always maintain a 1/2″ to 3/4″ air gap around all walls or protrusions. The floor must be allowed to expand without any pressure. You can cover the gaps easily with base and matching shoe moulding. Base and shoe moulding is usually nailed to the wall instead of the floor. Leave room for a business card (a very slight air gap) to slide on top of the floor and under the moulding. Undercut doorjambs for flooring to slide under.